In one week, we are going to usher in the New Year, like everyone else in the rest of the world. Traditional Yuletide precedes New Year celebrations. But this time hardly any such festive fervor is perceptible. With people cutting their purchases to the bare minimum, customers are no longer thronging shops to buy Christmas gifts to the dear and near ones. Nor could they afford the luxury of going on a shopping spree with most of their spare time being spent in long queues at post offices and banks to get a couple of thousands of rupees as pocket money. That too in 2000 rupee notes which none accepts for fear of parting with lower denomination currency.
So, after 45 days post-demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes with the contentious aim of ferreting out black money, fighting out corruption, eliminating fake currency and rooting out terror funding, we are left low and cashless.
If this is Modi’s way of transforming a cash-rich, black-money fuelled and unaccounted wealth-generating economy into plastic card-swiping digital economy, we must admit he is succeeding. But at what cost? Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP stalwarts claim that the people are with him in his drive against black money. Surely, they are. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be standing in endless queues and make several rounds to ATMs and banks in the hope of getting a few hundred or thousands to pay vegetable vendors, household helps, grocery shops, etc. Their patience is wearing thin by every passing day and they are also exasperated with the situation. This is the tyranny forced on the majority by a miniscule minority who are crooks of first order. They exist everywhere, in every country and these uncouth people bend the rules, hoodwink the government and make their lives merry at the cost of fellow citizens.
That’s what is happening now in this country. We don’t have money in our hands and we have to struggle to get it. But dozens of officials in public offices and banks and businessmen are able to garner crores of rupees in mint condition without sweating with the connivance of those who are supposed to be responsible for money management. What we see and read in the digital and print media is only the tip of the iceberg. Of utmost concern is, the iceberg is growing, not melting. As its size is increasing with more seizures of new and old currency notes and gold, the focus has shifted from money crisis to money accumulation by a few well connected people.
No doubt, they have been brought under the purview of law and their illegally gotten wealth has been seized. Does their arrests help mitigate common man’s money problems? It will take years before the errant officials were brought to justice and awarded punishments for their unlawful activities. In fact, if there is a fear of law, so many people wouldn’t have been making a quick buck by converting illegal currency into legal money and yellow metal. It is sheer absence of fear of law that encourages the politically powerful and well-connected people to indulge in economic offences with impunity.
Nevertheless, demonetization is a welcome move in the multi-pronged strategy of unearthing illegal wealth but there is no respite for the common man from the daily hardships. Those who have debit and credit cards are able to shore it up while those who possess neither are still looking for some relief from the government at the Centre and in states which are spinning a digital magical world of the future.
Unfortunately, we can’t live for long imagining the future. The present reality keeps knocking our heads every moment. The Prime Minister had promised On November 8 normalcy would return in a month and bear with the difficulties for a month when he announced his demonetization decision and sought people’s cooperation in making his programme a success. He got an overwhelming positive response. Even with an extension of 20 more days after he administered the bitter medicine, the system is not showing the signs of returning to normalcy. On the other hand, it is wilting to the extent that it may take many more months than expected to recover and function in a normal way. With so many flip-flops and U-turns by the government and RBI, it is difficult to see an early end to our travails.
First, where are the promised new Rs 500 notes? They were supposed to have made their debut a week after demonetization. Banks and post offices are giving only Rs 2000 notes. There is no sign of Rs 500 notes coming into the market in a big way, although RBI is reported to have said that it had released crores of rupees of this denomination. Have these notes too disappeared from the market in a clandestine way?
As we are on the threshold of 2017, we can’t wholeheartedly say three cheers to New Year. It is for the Modi government to dispel the gloom descending on the coming year in an ominous way.